The City of Montreal is set to call for a nationwide ban on handguns and assault weapons, joining Toronto in pressing the Trudeau government to beef up its proposed firearms legislation.
Montreal City Council is to debate a motion that will urge the federal government to prohibit weapons that are currently legal, albeit tightly regulated, at a meeting next week. The motion will also push Ottawa to impose enhanced background checks on owners and would-be owners of firearms.
“We want to send a message to the federal government that we need tighter controls on firearms to make our cities safer,” Alex Norris, a Montreal city councillor and the chair of the city’s public security commission, said in an interview.
Mr. Norris said Montreal has historically been at the forefront of calls for tighter gun control in Canada following deadly shootings at Polytechnique in 1989 and Dawson College in 2006. He said the new motion highlights the city’s solidarity with other Canadian cities following recent gun attacks in Quebec City, Toronto and Fredericton.
The motion has the support of Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, whose party has a majority on city council. If it is adopted on Monday, it will increase pressure on the federal government to expand its proposed firearms legislation, Bill C-71, which is now in front of Parliament and will be a central element of the government’s fall legislative agenda.
Last month, Toronto City Council adopted a motion that called on the federal government to ban handguns in Toronto and on the province to ban the sale of ammunition in the city. It also called for stricter gun controls, including a ban on assault rifles and semi-automatic firearms, and for city officials to study whether local gun clubs could be closed.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has rejected the call for a ban on handguns, stating earlier this month that there are many “legal, responsible handgun owners.”
However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and some of his key ministers have shown openness to the idea. Statistics Canada says 60 per cent of violent gun-related crimes in Canada in 2016 involved handguns.
“We were pleased to put forward gun legislation that is going to make our communities safer,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters in Fredericton on Sunday. “Do we need to take further steps? Do we need to go a little further? These are things we are talking to Canadians about, we’re talking with experts about and that we are reflecting on.”
The issue of gun control is expected to be debated at a three-day federal cabinet retreat that starts Tuesday of next week in Nanaimo, B.C. According to federal officials, a number of options are currently being studied and could be announced in the fall.
Police have said the alleged gunman in last Friday’s shooting in Fredericton, in which two police officers and two civilians were killed, had a valid firearms license and used a commonly available long gun.
However, last month’s double homicide on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue, in which a gunman killed a 10 year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman, was carried out with a handgun. And the man convicted for last year’s murder of six Muslims in Quebec City had a permit for restricted firearms, but lied about the fact he was having mental-health issues on the application. That allowed him to get the Glock pistol used in the shooting.
Bill C-71, tabled in March, in its current form would require companies that sell firearms to keep records of each one they sell, including details on purchasers. The records would not be shared with the government on a regular basis, but would be available to police with a judicial warrant as part of criminal investigations.
The new law would also enhance background checks people must undergo to obtain licences to acquire and possess firearms. The current checks go back five years, but under Bill C-71, they would look at the person’s entire life, including criminal records, mental-health history and past behaviour.
In addition, all vendors would have to verify the validity of a purchaser’s licence with the Canadian Firearms Program before completing a transaction. As it stands, these checks are voluntary.
Following the tabling of the legislation, gun-control advocates said the federal government needs to overhaul the system it uses to classify weapons to prohibit a greater number of weapons.